An open letter from Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike on Salem Public Schools’ MCAS success

Posted on: September 19, 2023
An open letter from Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike regarding Salem Public Schools' MCAS results

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VIEW: MCAS Access and Accountability Results

September 19, 2023

Dear Salem Public Schools Community,

Earlier today, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) publicly released Spring 2023 MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) and accountability results for all schools and districts in the Commonwealth.  In Salem, the decline in performance following the COVID-19 pandemic has generally halted and we are starting to see academic recovery.  While there has been important and critical progress, we still have extensive work to do to accelerate outcomes for our students.  

In grades 3-8 , we saw a 2-point increase in both ELA and math MCAS achievement and remained level in science (grade 5 & 8 MCAS).   We also saw an overall increase in student growth in both ELA and math (growth is not calculated in science) from last year.  This signals that students are improving at rates faster than they were previously.  Three of our schools – Bates, Bentley and Witchcraft – made improvements in all three content areas.  Across our three high schools, we saw a 1-point decline in 10th grade ELA and math and a 3-point decrease in science.   Generally, our data very closely maps to statewide results, where we saw higher increases at the grade 3-8 level than at the high school level.  

As a reminder, the MCAS data provides Salem Public Schools’ educators and our families with important diagnostic information on areas where students progressed and where additional support is necessary.  MCAS scores are only one indicator of student and school success.  All families will receive their child’s individual MCAS score reports during the month of October.  

Additionally, the state released accountability information for specific schools.  The state’s accountability system measures school and district improvement on MCAS achievement and growth (for all students and a variety of subgroups) as well as a broader set of indicators, including chronic absenteeism, multilingual learners’ progress towards English proficiency, advanced coursework completion, graduation rates, dropout rates and students’ extended enrollment in high school.

We are pleased to share that several Salem schools made significant progress towards established targets.  A few highlights from our accountability data.  

  • 6 of 8 schools made at least moderate progress towards improvement targets.  Two schools (Bates and Witchcraft) met or exceeded their targets.  Two schools (Bentley and Carlton) made substantial progress and two schools made moderate progress (Collins and Salem High School).  Three schools (Early Childhood Center, Salem Prep and New Liberty) do not receive an accountability status given that they do not have testing grades or have insufficient data because of the school’s size.  
  • 5 out of 8 schools improved their accountability percentile rank compared to other schools in  the Commonwealth. Two schools made double-digit improvement in their percentile rank (Bates and Witchcraft).  
  • Three schools (Collins, Horace Mann and Saltonstall) saw a decline in their accountability rating.  Even though Collins saw improvement toward their targets, they did not improve as rapidly as other elementary and middle schools across the state.  As such, their accountability status decreased below the 10th percentile and the school will receive targeted assistance for the coming year.  
  • We are pleased to share that Witchcraft was identified as a school of recognition, one of just 65 schools across the entire state recognized for especially high achievement, strong growth, and meeting targets.  They are no longer a school requiring targeted assistance.  
  • We are encouraged that our multilingual learners made substantial progress towards their improvement targets in 2023.  Our data reveals that we need to pay additional attention to our two subgroups, specifically low income and students with disabilities, who are not making rapid enough progress toward meeting grade level proficiency.  

Given our core function as an educational institution, we continue to be urgently focused on ensuring that all students are fully on track and meeting their academic potential.  We will build from the schools and classrooms across our district that are clear proof points of success.  These are places with positive staff school culture, that embrace the use of high-quality instructional materials, frequently examine student work and make corresponding instructional adjustments, as well as leverage the STAR and other regular assessments to provide additional intervention and acceleration to students and provide ongoing feedback to educators.  We will aim to replicate the practices that are already working for students in these schools and classrooms to ensure even progress during the current school year 

More information on Salem’s results can be found on the DESE website.  We will also share additional information about our MCAS and accountability results, as well as our efforts to respond to the needs of our learners this school year, at our next School Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, October 2nd at 7 p.m.  We appreciate your continued support and partnership as we work to improve academic outcomes across our schools.   


Stephen Zrike, Ed.D.